Allow students to create merchandise for the Co-op

Alyssa Ramos, Columnist

From school spirit to textbooks and friendly smiles, the University Co-op has served and supported Longhorns on campus since 1896. However, only some students recognize the Co-op as a tool for their education and potential partner in their hobbies and projects. 

The Co-op shouldn’t only be known as the place to get Longhorn commodities. It should also be home to showcasing students’ capabilities by allowing them to learn, invent and bring their products to life. 

 UT should create a program that allows students to design and create merchandise at the Co-op so that they can produce their creations and gain real-world experience. 

 Currently, the Co-op has a program that permit students to work as an intern in preparation for becoming a part of the staff in the future. Despite this program letting students shadow and develop their management and operation skills, it doesn’t focus on the development of students’ products and designs. 

In 2021, the Co-op collaborated with Student Government to assist in their initiative of uniting student businesses with the Co-op. Through the initiative, selected students were able to display their products inside of the building while also learning the inner workings of a business. 

Katie Miller, a textiles and apparel junior and past Co-op collaborator, said that even though she could’ve gone anywhere in Austin, she chose the Co-op since she was able to share her designs with the UT community. 

“I could maybe ask a store in the Domain or whatever, but being so close (meant) having that sense of community because (of the) people that go there,” Miller said. “To be able to kind of show that I’m a part of the UT community by selling my stuff (at the co-op) (is) important to me.” 

While the University provides students that wish to push boundaries and think outside the box with many outlets, UT should also offer more opportunities for students to create and sell their own UT designs before they graduate. 

 “I think that’s where a lot of the opportunity has come (from) so far,” Joelle Houshmand, Buyer for Women and Children’s merchandise at the Co-op, said. “Partnering with students and with anyone that’s creative and has products that are already developed or something that they’ve already designed on their end. We’re always more than happy to bring that product to light at our store.” 

Regardless of past opportunities, it’s still not enough for students to gain the confidence they need to produce their creations. Organizations on campus shouldn’t have to reach out for initiatives and programs like this to exist. The University should take charge and assist students’ endeavors by providing them with an opportunity to create and display their products in the Co-op. 

The Co-op was built to support students by offering them opportunities that would positively impact them and their futures. Providing students with a program where they can showcase their talents and products helps students by encouraging and easing them into their field of work. 

Before students become professionals, they should feel secure with the people and opportunities around them. For students to be comfortable while pursuing their interests, UT should create more opportunities for them on campus by allowing them to share their creations with their Longhorn community. 

Ramos is a journalism freshman from Laredo, Texas.